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Employer Commits Unfair Labor Practice By Insisting on English-Only Proposal

When an employer has a duty to engage in collective bargaining, its refusal to do so is an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act (the Act).  Refusals to engage in collective bargaining can take many forms.  Earlier this week, the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) found that a UPS facility in Puerto Rico unlawfully refused to bargain  by continuing to insist that a union proposal be translated from Spanish to English.  UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Inc., 366 NLRB No. 111 (June 18, 2018).

On July 29, 2014, the Board certified the Unión De Tronquistas De PR, Local 901, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (the Union) as the exclusive bargaining representative of 15 UPS employees in Puerto Rico.  Several months later, on December 16, the Union sent a letter to UPS’s Human Resources Director requesting bargaining dates.  UPS responded that it would offer dates upon receipt of the Union’s initial proposal.  On February 18, 2015, the Union followed up with its initial proposal, set forth in a 67-page letter written in Spanish.

The parties conferred and corresponded several times thereafter: April 9; July 15; July 24; and August 6-7.  At each meeting, UPS requested that the Union translate its initial proposal to English.  UPS even presented “ground rules” for negotiating, requiring all proposals to be in English, and requesting that the Union split the cost of translating the Union’s first proposal from Spanish to English as a condition for further negotiations.  Each time, the Union refused.

Meanwhile, most of the communications between the parties (written correspondence, negotiations over layoffs, bargaining sessions) were in Spanish.  UPS justified its translation request because the proposal “ha[d] to be verified by people in the U.S. who speak English[.]”  The Union filed an unfair labor practice charge on September 2.

The Board found that UPS committed a per se violation of the NLRA for “hold[ing] collective bargaining hostage to unilaterally imposed preconditions on negotiations.”  In other words, UPS insisted on a translation of the Union’s initial proposal, required all proposals to be in English, and conditioned future bargaining on translation of the proposal, all the while failing to demonstrate that a translation to English was necessary for negotiations to continue.  Additionally, UPS unlawfully delayed bargaining by refusing to negotiate without the Union’s translated proposal.

As a remedy, the NLRB ordered UPS to drop its insistence that the union translate the initial proposals into English. The Board also ordered that UPS engage in at least 24 hours of bargaining with the union each month, and that each session last at least six hours, unless otherwise agreed to by the union.  UPS was also ordered to submit monthly progress reports on the status of bargaining to the NLRB.

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